“Chaperone’ leads Tony nominations


NEW YORK (AP) – It’s shaping up as a battle between “The Drowsy Chaperone,” a frothy celebration of a faux 1920s musical, and “Jersey Boys,” showcasing the story and pop sounds of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

“Chaperone” received 13 Tony nominations Tuesday – more than any other show – while “Jersey Boys” grabbed eight nods in what has been a busy Broadway season. They were the two best-reviewed musicals of the season, with “Chaperone” already winning the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and “Jersey Boys” the Outer Critics Circle prize.

But also showing surprising Tony strength was “The Color Purple,” the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical based on Alice Walker’s novel about a determined woman’s triumph over adversity. It placed second with 11 nominations.

All three will compete in the best musical category along with “The Wedding Singer,” based on the 1998 Adam Sandler film.

“The History Boys,” Alan Bennett’s London success about a group of boisterous students trying to get into Oxford or Cambridge, dominated the play categories, receiving seven nominations including one for best play.

Although “The History Boys” is an ensemble piece, Richard Griffiths, who portrays a beloved teacher, was nominated for best actor. He already has won the Olivier Award in London for his performance.

“It’s incredibly gratifying,” Griffiths said Tuesday. “And I am very surprised and delighted. I’m pushing 60 myself, so having to jump about is very hard work.”

The play’s competition for the top drama prize will be “The Lieutenant of Inishmore,” Martin McDonagh’s comic splatterfest about a crazed Irish terrorist; “Shining City,” Conor McPherson’s ghost story set in present-day Dublin; and “Rabbit Hole,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s look at a suburban couple attempting to deal with the death of their young son.

Going up against Griffiths will be Ralph Fiennes who plays the title character in Brian Friel’s “Faith Healer”; Oliver Platt, the haunted husband in “Shining City”; David Wilmot, a crazed terrorist in “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and Zeljko Ivanek, an intense naval officer in “The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial,” which closes Sunday after a two-week run.

In one oddity, all the women nominated for best actress starred in plays that already have closed: Cynthia Nixon, the distraught mother in “Rabbit Hole”; Judy Kaye, a tone-deaf diva in “Souvenir”; Lisa Kron, an embattled daughter in “Well,” and two performers from the revival of W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Constant Wife,” Kate Burton and Lynn Redgrave.

It was Redgrave’s niece, Natasha Richardson who announced her aunt’s nomination Tuesday at Lincoln Center and who called her mother in London, Vanessa Redgrave, who relayed the news to sister Lynn.

Said Lynn Redgrave, who was about to take a nap: “What a wonderful thing to dream on!”

One actress who is still starring on Broadway (through June 18) is Julia Roberts, but she was passed over for a nomination in “Three Days of Rain,” as were her two co-stars, Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. The revival of Richard Greenberg’s drama only received two design nominations.

Also pretty much ignored by the Tony nominators were Disney’s “Tarzan,” which could manage only one nomination (for lighting design) and “Lestat,” Elton John’s take on the Anne Rice vampire novels, which snagged just two (for costumes featured actress Carolee Carmello).

Harry Connick Jr. was luckier. He received an actor-musical nod for his work in the revival of “The Pajama Game,” which got nine bids.

Connick will be up against Michael Cerveris, the bloody barber in “Sweeney Todd”; John Lloyd Young, who portrays crooner Frankie Valli in “Jersey Boys”; Bob Martin, the co-author and narrator-star of “The Drowsy Chaperone”; and Stephen Lynch, the lovesick hero of “The Wedding Singer.”

“I’m just floored,” said Young. “My voice teacher said something that just resonated with me: “Tens of thousands of people come to New York to become actors. Thousands get paid to act. Hundreds get on Broadway. Dozens play leads. And only five get nominated for a Tony.’ I’m thinking of that today because so many levels ago I already won.”

Kelli O’Hara, Connick’s co-star in “The Pajama Game,” received a nomination for actress-musical, as did Broadway veteran Patti LuPone, the industrious pie-maker in “Sweeney Todd.” Also nominated in the category: LaChanze, the beleaguered heroine of “The Color Purple”; Sutton Foster for “The Drowsy Chaperone”; and the legendary Chita Rivera for playing herself in “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.”

The 13 nominations for “The Drowsy Chaperone” included two for Martin, as star and co-author of the show. In it, he plays a nameless fellow in love with an old musical – which then comes to life.

“I think my character – Man in Chair – is recognizable to audiences,” Martin said. “We all have a desire to be transported by musical theater. I have been incredibly lucky to always have been a writer and an actor. And the theater is one of the only places where I could be both.”

The special regional theater Tony will go to the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, while director-producer Harold Prince will receive a special lifetime achievement award.

Who takes home the awards will be settled June 11 at Radio City Music Hall, where the winners will be announced in a three-hour telecast, beginning 8 p.m. EDT on CBS.

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